Though Qatar’s population growth is needed to support its infrastructure projects, it has prompted the country to contend with many new risks, including social strains and environmental degradation, a senior official has said.
During a United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) meeting in New York this week, Dr. Saleh Bin Mohammad Al Nabit, Minister for Development Planning and Statistics, joined officials from nine other countries in making voluntary presentations about how they were progressing with their development goals.
Referencing a report submitted by Qatar to the UN earlier this year, Al Nabit said balancing economic growth with social development and environmental protection has been difficult.
According to the report, challenges have included:
- Social issues: Schools, hospitals and housing were not built to accommodate such a rapidly growing population, and “some Qataris may feel crowded out of services;”
Cultural problems: The potential exists for Qatari Arab and Islamic values and identity to be diluted – though interactions between the native population and expats may be limited by language and class barriers;
- Economic difficulties: If a large number of expats suddenly leave Qatar, the economy would be hit by a downturn in productivity – delaying projects – and also by a loss in their spending;
- Environmental issues: The rapidly growing population has caused “significant environmental degradation,” for example causing a scarcity in urban land and pollution caused by traffic congestion. This is expected to continue until infrastructure projects are completed, and population/behavioral patterns change; and
- Safety problems: The criminal justice system could be strained with more cases. Additionally, building safety could be compromised and as the roads get more congested, more traffic accidents are expected.
According to the report, the number of road accidents resulting in a fatality or injury in Qatar increased 31 percent from 2008 to 2012. However, most of the rise came from minor injuries, and fatalities from traffic accidents fell by 11 percent.
But this was likely not because people began driving more safely. Rather, the report stated:
“The decline in the number of fatal accidents could be attributed in part to a slower movement of traffic as a result of the increasing congestion on the roads and to the faster response of emergency services and improved levels of medical care.”
Meanwhile, concern was expressed over the higher rate of road-related fatalities among Qataris, particularly youth – the rate per 100,000 Qataris declined from 25 to 2008 to 17 in 2012, but remained more than 50 percent above the country average.
Qatar is also struggling to decrease pedestrian deaths. The proportion of pedestrian fatalities fell from 32 percent to 28 percent in 2012, but the goal is to get the figure down to 17 percent by 2016. Most of those killed were non-Qatari men between the age of 20 and 44 years old.
As part of the country’s National Development Strategy – a five-year plan that runs through 2016 – measures are being taken to mitigate some of the problems posed.
For example, Al Nabit pointed out that nationwide road safety and electricity/water conservation campaigns are well underway.
He added that sustainable development would only be possible with a productive workforce, which is why Qatar has been working to develop the talent of its young people and build up its knowledge economy.
However, those efforts sometimes come into conflict with the necessity of importing hundreds of thousands of unskilled and semi-skilled workers to fuel construction projects ahead of the 2022 World Cup.
Finally, the minister stressed that Qatar wanted to ensure a high level of well-being among Qataris and expats alike. Life satisfaction appears to be highest among Qatari males (90 percent), and lowest among expat males (78 percent).
Interesting stuff. I cannot help but feel that the country is trying to run before it can walk. The World Cup was such a bad idea and not thought through by the gov. As regards the road safety campaign that is “well underway” I wonder what role the police and MOI will play in this. I ask this as a neighbor of mine recently crashed his Land Cruiser (Qatar’s weapon of choice). When I say crashed I am speaking gently of him as in reality it looks like the damage was from a missile strike. Out of interest I ran his number plate through the MOI website to see what appears when there is an accident. I found fines totaling 5,100 QAR many of which were for speeding and not wearing seatbelts but get this………..two of them were for driving a vehicle (the one that crashed) that was not safe to be on public roads. Now please tell me why this car was not impounded if the MOI knew this before this man had the chance to try to kill himself and others. Where is the road safety awareness in that??? For what its worth, I don’t know if it is an expat or Qatari as I just know the car. – I also don’t care.
Great comment!! Isn’t it scary that someone with that many fines is (a) still on the road, and (b) unable to learn their lesson and change their driving behavior. It’s very sad that the only “justice” or “punishment” seems to be the injuries these people inflict on themselves. The injustice is that they will almost certainly injure or kill someone else in the process. What a shame…
I agree with all of above, well said.
Am I surprised? No. No not at all. Useless. They just let the dangerous keep on being dangerous, killing and maiming without a care from either. Disgrace.
Many of the laws, intentions and initiatives mentioned in the story are well-intended and solid ideas.
The fundamental problem in Qatar is lack of enforcement and follow through. Without these, any potential solution is useless.
David, I agree with you completely on your statement. Enforcement and follow through is the issue. We must assume that as we know this the authorities must also know this. If they know, then it is reasonable to assume that the failure to enforce is not a failure at all, rather a conscious decision by the authorities not to intervene. If this then is the reality, the situation can only deteriorate with increasing numbers of people on the roads. This is something that potential expats need to consider carefully before coming here.
Huzz – Am I taking crazy pills, or did you have a comment on here earlier about your neighbor and his driving fines? I thought it was a great comment, but I don’t see it anymore… Surely it wasn’t deleted by DN as it contained nothing offensive. Please tell me that I have not lost my sanity, and that you did in fact post that earlier?
It was there but I guess that I have fallen foul of a law somewhere. Input from Doha News please? If I don’t post anymore then please visit me when I get hauled off to prison.
Shabina strikes again
Some comments may not be automatically published. This is not action taken by us, but instead, depending on whether or not you have verified your email address, or if your post triggers automatic flags.
I can see that comment below in a separate thread.
Yes, it appears that I am back.
I wonder what word you used that triggered the flag? I’m placing my bet on either “kill”, “weapon” or “Land Cruiser”…
Just as well that I did not mention the top man here or I bet that I would have seen enforcement of the law then!
If the comment is deleted by us, it will say ‘this comment has been deleted.’ If it doesn’t show up at all, disqus put in the pending folder, which we must manually clear.
We live in fear of your Delete key Shabina.
It’s back up now. Always a relief to find out that my sanity is in fact still in tact (well most of it anyway). WHEW!
Agree lack of genuine effort to enforce existing laws…
Savor this moment where I agree with you
I think we agree on a lot more than either of us realize.
True. There is more of a focus on producing reports that identify problems, but never following through with the recommended actions to rectify them, for whatever the reasons may be.
A report gives the (false) impression that your tackling the problem. Hence the many and regular reports on the Kafala.
A report in Qatar is issued to give the (false) impression that you’re tackling the problem. Hence the many reports on the Kafala.
The chart is of the “cheating” kind… Starts at 72 with some squiggly lines…89.6 is not double the number 80.8 as the chart seems to imply.
Lies, damned lies and statistics
Very misleading isn’t it!! That’s the dangerous thing about statistics and graphics like that, they can easily misrepresent the truth.
Yip-stats are easily manipulated.
That chart represents a positive image in my mind, both Qatari and expat are satisfied by their lives, well over 70% which I think you’ll find compared to other countries is a very good figure. It just goes to show that all people really need is a job, a house and some food on the table which nearly 99% of people in Qatar have. Compare that to the Palestinians. They do not fight for some dream of a Palestinian homeland or in the cause of arab unity they fight because they have nothing left to lose. Give them a job, a house and a big TV and a peaceful place to live and the support for Hamas would dry up overnight.
Or simply give them their homeland back.
Whose? The Jews or the Arabs? Both occupied that land at one point and don’t forget originally it was the Romans that crushed the Jews (and gave the land it’s name Palestine) and tried to wipe them off the map and then the Arabs invaded and conquered that land and imposed Islam. History is never that simple.
Israel and Palestine should be one secular state with equal rights for all, however Arabs and Israelis would rather kill each other for the next thousand years than come to a reasonable compromise.
Is LoveItOrLeaveIt attempting to post incognito now?
I got this in my inbox showing LoveItOrLeaveIt posted it, but see the comment has been changed to be posted from “Guest”. Hmmm…interesting
Charts can say whatever the author wants. If they are in color and 3D, then most people accept them without question as true.
A good report and it is good they are considering these challenges. One challenge they should forget about is Qatari Arab and Islamic culture. Culture changes all the time and it is pointless trying to maintain the status quo. Qatari culture is very different now to 50 years ago or 200 years ago, so what are they trying to maintain? The right of every born male to drive a Land Cruiser and drink Starbucks? These days Qataris are educated to a higher level than even 30 years ago and many women have joined the workforce, something unheard of 50 years ago. As for Islamic culture that has changed also, a visit to the Museum of Islamic Art will demonstrate how it has changed over the last thousand years. Many people think that religions have stayed the same since they were created, which is obviously not true, all have morphed over time to what we have now. Who for instance knows that all the archeological evidence points to early muslims praying towards Jerusalem not Mecca? This only came much later.
The point is let’s try and fix the things we can and not worry about the things that we cannot change or will waste our time trying to stop.
It is important that Qataris accept the fact that they will always be a minority in their own country, and that the old Qatar of the 1990 and 1980s is gone forever. This is in my opinion the biggest challenge.
Some think the situation is temporary but it is not true. The 2030 vision, which is an over-ambitious plan, will need at least 4 to 5 million people to happen. Even with the current birth rate among Qataris it will not be possible to have 4 million of them in 15 years. Once Qataris accept this, many things will change in their behaviours. They will start to understand the different behaviours of expats and be more tolerant towards their traditions and faiths. They will also stop asking for exclusivity and start speaking in the name of the whole community. Their treatment of labourers, maids and expats in general will improve as they start seeing them as equal partners in building the prosperity of the country.
Unfortunately, so far many Qataris see the current influx of expats as temporary and related mostly to the World Cup, and are therefore reluctant to interact with expats or allow them to have the same life as them. The only thing that might change after the WC is the ratio of blue collars to white collars and to locals. By 2030, there will normally be less labourers and more white collars.
People in Dubai used to think the same but they seem to accept now the fact that Dubai cannot function without all these expats. Hopefully the same will happen here soon, for the good of Qatar.
Yacine – I love every word of what you wrote; I love your optimism. Sadly I do not think you understand the reality of the situation. You talk about the 2030 vision and that 4-5 million people are needed, and that the birth rate of Qataris will not make that possible, so if Qataris accept that, then they will change.
I beg to differ (nothing against you Yacine, I can tell you have a kind heart) but even if Qataris could breed like rabbits and have 5 million of them tomorrow, they DON’T WANT to do the work themselves to make these projects happen.
They will NOT realize that they need expats (vs. demand expats), they view workers as a commodity that can be purchased vs. a human life, and they will not be more tolerant, they will not improve the treatment of maids, workers, expats, and they will definitely NOT see expats as “equal partners building the prosperity of the country”. I KNOW not all are that way, but sadly that is the overarching spirit of the country at the moment.
I love your sweet spirit, and I wish what you say could be so, but I have lost my naive optimism. I don’t want you to lose yours, but I also want to keep it real.
Thank you for your nice reply @Expat Girl 🙂
I do agree with what you have said to some extent, but I think the new generation is quite different from the old one. First, because they are educated (bachelor or Masters’ degree from QU or the other international universities here), and second, because they are aware of the challenges and are not happy with the legacy their parents and grand-parents left to them. They are clearly not happy with things like the Kafala system, the exit permit, and other backward laws and regulations. They also hate the driving habits of the some locals, disapprove of the way the legal system works, object to the money wasted on useless initiatives, and are keen on having more participation in the decision-making process. For now they do not have much leverage as key position are still held by the old generation (that is their parents), but by 2030 you would expect many of them to be in position to push for changes 🙂
You might say I am overoptimistic but this is what I currently see with some Qatari colleagues to various degrees. They do want the change for the better and they are clearly not the lazy type of Qataris who would have two maids and one driver to look after them. At the end of the day, let’s just hope things will get better. Otherwise we expats in Qatar will have to find somewhere else to go, and that is not always easy 🙂
Well said. The government realises this but cannot say it publicly as it would be too controversial. The smart Qataris and they’re quite a few, do realise the situation. Their wealth depends on the expats keeping the country developing and the businesses ticking over. Dubai got hit in 2008/9 and when the expats lost their jobs it wasn’t just their salary that disappeared, but no one bought cars, no one rented apartments, no one had gym memberships, no one was eating out and so on. Not being citizens once they left all their spending went with them.
A happy medium needs to be reached between the two societies that exist in Qatar. Most expat you will find are happy, they have good jobs that pay them well and it’s a relatively safe place to live.
You mentioned a good point. The government cannot say it, and this is absolutely true. However more and more Qataris are growing aware of that and the most outspoken of them are now asking for greater participation in the decision-making process, be it through the much-delayed parliament or any other “democratic” structure.
I wish Qatar the best for its future, a future very different to the 50 years before. The new generation are very different as you say, but change is always hard for all, no matter where they come from in the world
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